As a Yemeni-Bosnian-American I struggled with duality my entire life on several levels — after all I originally come from two countries that no longer exist, Yugoslavia and South Yemen.
It was only in the last few years, when I dedicated myself to being a contemporary artist, that I stopped struggling with this polarity and rather embraced it within myself through my work as an artist.
Marcel Duchamp described a similar phenomenon as the inframince, a term that defines the very particular point in which something ceases to be what it is and starts to become something else.
My ongoing series, Cast No Evil, has garnered a lot of attention perhaps not for being “beautiful” or “disturbing”, but rather for conjuring up the many things in between what is seen and what is perceived.
I chose to continue with this style and develop it in regards to indigenous textiles of particular regions in a new series called the People of Pattern. This work spans seven countries including Mexico, Senegal, Morocco, Uzbekistan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan. It approaches the same topic in how we are all inherently the same in our needs and fulfillment and yet entirely different in the process, the in-between.
Fabric is something that we all have in common and interact with on a daily basis, and yet in this body of work it further symbolizes the fabricated borders in which we, as individuals and as societies, erect in order to differentiate one from the other.
Following the lead-up to the United States primaries. I felt numbed and handicapped by all the hatred that was being spouted out by potential candidates and the disregard of the media to remain objective and provide balanced coverage. The hateful speech that was directly targeted towards Muslims, Mexicans and other minorities was regurgitated through media channels and clearly taken as truth by a large number of individuals. It was clear to me that this discourse of hatred had to be balanced with beauty by means of art. If we have forgotten that we have our humanity in common, then I introduce another thing we have in common, fabric.
The People of Pattern project highlights fabric as something that is of our earth, a manifestation of our imagination, a reflection of our environment and an archive of our stories. This project delves into a variety of cultures around the world and discovers them through their unique textiles, artisans, and processes in making them.
My work is not intended to answer questions, but rather serve as a prop for individuals to interact with themselves. The project becomes an intimate space to re-evaluate one’s context of themselves in regards to their immediate social circle, their society and the world.
— Alia Ali
Editor’s Note: Alia Ali was a Finalist in the LensCulture Exposure Awards last year, and has been featured in exhibitions and screenings at photography festivals around the world. This is her latest body of work that continues with explorations of the themes of personal and public identity.